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UVa Medical Center reports increase in COVID hospitalizations

Positive cases of COVID-19 and related hospitalizations are once again increasing in the Charlottesville area.

On Friday, the University of Virginia Medical Center had 33 COVID patients compared to only five at the end of last month. Only two patients on Friday were in the intensive care unit. Two were in the pediatric units and three were in labor and delivery units.

“What we’re seeing is the acuity does not seem to be the same as it was a few months ago, meaning fewer ICU patients at this time,” said Dr. Reid Adams, UVa’s chief medical officer, during a media briefing.

Adams added the community’s test positivity rate is currently high.

“We’re at 12%, which is probably an underestimate considering that those are reported tests and not all the home tests,” Adams said. “The rate is actually probably higher than what we’re seeing reported.”

The Blue Ridge Health District is averaging 119 new cases over a seven-day period and has reported 2,045 new cases this month, which are similar to numbers seen last fall before the height of the omicron-fueled surge.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County are currently rated at the medium community level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At that level, individuals who are at high risk for severe illness should talk to their healthcare provider about whether they should wear a mask or take other precautions.

Other localities in the health district at the medium level include Fluvanna, Greene and Louisa counties. Nelson County is at low.

“Unfortunately, there has been a steady increase in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks throughout the district,” BRHD spokeswoman Kathryn Goodman said. “A lot of spread is happening in large social gatherings. It is still important for people to be up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to protect themselves and others.”

Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology for the medical center, said Friday the surge so far has seen fewer ICU hospitalizations and deaths in part because more people are vaccinated and boosted or have immunity from getting infected with COVID. He still urged caution, though.

“Deaths can lag and so I think we should remain concerned and vigilant to the possibility that we may see increasing deaths as hospitalization numbers rise moving forward,” he said.

Ahead of the summer travel season, Sifri encouraged those traveling to wear a mask when indoors and in crowded situations, along with getting vaccinated and boosted. A higher-quality KN95 mask is recommended.

Outside of the medical center, cases have increased slightly in Charlottesville City Schools, which reported 17 new cases among students this week as well as three among staff. For some weeks in March and April, the division was seeing single-digit increases.

Charlottesville’s Clark Elementary is dealing with an outbreak in progress involving five cases, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The division’s in-school testing program has a positivity rate of .3%. Four classes in April and May were switched to virtual to minimize spread, according to the division.

Meanwhile, Albemarle County schools reported 105 new cases among students and 12 among staff members, according to the division’s dashboard. There are five active outbreaks in the division as well, including one involving 16 students at Meriwether Lewis Elementary.

“Whenever the virus changes its behavior, the differences show up in the community and invariably in our schools,” Albemarle spokesman Phil Giaramita said. “That’s been true when the numbers have dropped and now, as they increase. The major difference this past week has been new COVID cases in Albemarle County per 100,000 people in the past seven days. On May 12, this number was less than 200 and today the health district is reporting 365.”

Giaramita noted that the school division was limited in its response to the increase because it can’t require students to wear masks.

“One helpful development is the relatively high vaccination rates, which have contributed to the ending of contact tracing except in instances of outbreaks,” he said. “We have seen some dips in attendance both for students and staff but have not had to convert any of our schools to all-virtual instruction.”

Other outbreaks are in progress at Brownsville, Stone-Robinson, and Virginia L. Murray elementary schools as well as Western Albemarle High School.

Charlottesville Catholic School has an outbreak in progress involving 18 cases. The Charlottesville Day School, Field School of Charlottesville and Virginia Institute of Autism also have outbreaks in progress.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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